This is the finale of HELL ALL OVER, a short story by Tope Lizbeth Adeagbo. Thanks for following, and please use the comment box. BEST MAN DUTY returns tomorrow. Have a beautiful Friday…
Read previous parts:
#1 on https://oscarpoems.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/hell-all-over-a-story-by-tope-lizbeth-adeagbo/
#2 on https://oscarpoems.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/hell-all-over-2/
Though she had never told her mum, she had been treated in the school on countless occasions for insomnia, melancholia, migraine and all sorts. There was a time she was barred from writing tests in the school because they feared for her mental condition. The school nurse told her she was being too serious minded. According to their diagnosis,it had affected her, thus the insomnia.
Two weeks before any examination, she would stop eating and sleeping which, mainly caused the migraine. The school had written to her mum but she had been able to intercept such letter by bribing their maid at home to read any mail from her school. The maid was fairly literate and could read. So unless it was the annual report, all letters that had to do with the concern of the school over her health and mental well-being, never got to her mum.
Her friend, Regina had taught her forgery, something almost every student of the school had done at one time or the other. The students did this so that certain reports would not get to their parents and Inno had also joined the bandwagon. During one of her holidays, she stole her mother’s office letter-headed paper. This had enabled her to reply any letter from the school herself once Titi, the housemaid, had sent the original copy back to her. After which she would drop it off in the school’s mailbox.
Students in the boarding school are so full of mischief that even at a school as highly reputed as hers, outsmarting the school authorities was a kind of competition. Anyone who had been able to invent and successfully carry out any form of mischief on the school was acknowledged as ‘swag queen’.
For instance, though receiving letters from anyone not recognized as your registered relative was forbidden, the students had opened their own unofficial mailbox. This was behind the last hostel next to a thick bush. A cleaner whom they bribed from time to time brought such letters and posted theirs.
Another example of their dare devil attitude was the issue of lesbianism in the school. Senior students initiated their school daughters (favorite junior girls) into such cult, and they were taught the act of lesbianism. They were even made to swear on a coffin with a cross marked on it with red. They swore that anyone who divulges the secret of the group that practiced sex orgies at light out, or have sex with boys would die horribly. They were a known secret among fellow students and there were even rumours that maybe one or two of their teachers were their patrons. There had been countless tales told of girls who disappeared in their dorms mysteriously or developed strange illness. These were believed to have happened because they disobeyed. Although no one had a proof of those horrible tales, yet they spread like wild fire among the girls.
When Innocenta started having insomnia and had to be drugged to sleep, she repeated bizarre things in her sleep. This made Chinyere and her gang, a set of malicious girls who had been her nemesis since her first year to spread tales about her. They said she belonged to the dreaded cult and because of her fickleness, she had betrayed them. This according to them was why she was experiencing hallucinations and strange illnesses.
They even whispered to others that anyone who moved with her would most likely be affected, which made almost everyone to nearly avoid her like plague. Being one of the most brilliant students in the school should have attracted throngs of junior girls to her. The reverse was the case however as they were all too scared of what the consequences could be to associate with her. Many ignored her, which made her live an almost solitary life in the school, thus the cause of her melancholia.
She had hoped that if she was elected student body president for the year, it would endear students to her. It would also enable her use the opportunity to make new friends and also use her influence to prove that all the rumours about her were absolute falsehoods. How she could be a lesbian when no one had proof of a sexual advancement from her to anyone, or vice versa, was beyond her. But the mindset of an average high school student rarely made sense!
She had even gone to the ridiculous extent of befriending a boy from an all-boys school that periodically socialized with girls from her school. The only thing that achieved was to further cement her colleagues’ mind that indeed she was fickle.
A few days to the third step of the student body president selection test, Innocenta was as usual unable to sleep. She turned from side to side on her bed thereby disturbing her bunk mate. After she heard repeated hissing and murmuring from Silver, she stood up, opened her purse and brought out sleeping pills. She hated having to do this especially since the school nurse had warned her against using pills to lure herself to sleep. Unfortunately by then, she developed a crutch and won’t sleep without it.
The school had stopped giving her sleeping pills when they noticed the danger she faced from being too used to it. She however sorted herself. She was able to sneak in supplies sent by her boyfriend and the one sent by Titi through their illegal mailbox. However that night, though she knew she would not blink an eye without it, she felt reluctant to use it.
“Well, tomorrow is Saturday”, she thought, “I will use that opportunity to sleep late”.
Having concluded in her mind, she uncapped the bottle and instead of two, swallowed four pills in her usual manner of swallowing drugs without taking water and in less than fifteen minutes, she fell into deep sleep.
Around 2.30am, one of the students in Elegance Dorm wanted to charge her phone. This was not permitted as the school authorities had removed all the sockets to prevent the students from trying to use boiling rings, ironing or even attempting to cook in the hostel. These are sins for which they had had to expel some students and had suspended others in the past. All these however, did not deter the students; she took two sticks to bring out the red and black wires. She cautiously stripped the wires after putting off the central switch. She then proceeded to wrap each of the coils to the mouth of her phone charger with great care. She was not scared; it was one of those things that students did all the time and even a year one student would do it without being scared of getting electrocuted. When she was satisfied with what she had done, she switched on the mains again and went back to sleep.
Around 3.45am, Silver, Innocenta’s bunkmate woke up from her delicious sleep. She was happy that for once she had a sound sleep without Inno using her bad sleeping habit to disturb her. It was too good to be true. As much as she tolerated her ‘bunkie’, she hated when anything disturbed her sleep. She could ‘kill’ because of it and many nights Inno had had to bear the brunt of her anger. She stood up, stretched lazily and made her way to the bathroom. Coming back, she had the urge to go outside for some fresh natural breeze instead of the air-conditioned air in the dorm, though this was prohibited.
Tiptoeing and moving as silently as a cat stalking a mouse, she opened the door and stood on the balcony. She stared at the moonless sky that was decorated with billions of jewel-like stars that were doing all they could to illuminate the night. It was so beautiful and she sopped up the serenity a while.
Suddenly, light was switched on in a building not too far from where she was and she quickly ducked, heart in her mouth. She waited a while but sensing her house mistress was also probably going to answer the call of nature, she relaxed. At first she thought the woman had seen her but still, it would be disastrous should the matron look in her direction and see her silhouette.
She hurried inside, locked the balcony door and was about returning to her bed when she noticed that the air in the room was heavy. Peradventure it was because she had been outside a while. She stood still, looked around the dorm for anything out of place. But, it was difficult to ascertain as the room was dark. She moved towards her bed, pulled back the covers and was about to jump in when she decided to do another surveillance, she almost missed it.
She jumped up, looked at it very well and yes, beside Jumai’s bed by that socket where they did their illegal charging, smoke was coming out. The whole wire was red and was glowing and some things had caught fire. At first fear held her tongue but as if by magic it loosened it, she swallowed hard and screamed;
“Fire, Fire, Fire, everybody wake up, the dorm is on fire. Faya!!!!!!!!”
She was screaming so hard, that almost everyone woke up instantly. Unfortunately, articles of clothes flung in haste accidentally towards that direction became engulfed. Pandemonium broke. To worsen the situation, their dorm was upstairs so they were all clambering towards the stairs. Some were coughing so hard that they had to be held by their dorm mates. Two or three went towards the balcony and decided to risk their limbs rather than burn alive.
Within a matter of minutes, the whole compound came alive and even those whose dorms were far from theirs had joined in the noise. The dorm mistresses quickly left their rooms and hurried to the scene of the outbreak to put out the fire and save what they could. Fire extinguishers were brought out, students and even non-teaching staff could be seen with buckets of water striving to put out the fire. One of the teachers picked her phone and quickly dialed the fire service.
While they were doing this, it occurred to one of the teachers to count the girls from Elegance Hostel. They noticed four were missing out of fifteen but no one was sure whether they were still in the room. This was because each of the girls was busy trying to escape the long arms of the inferno to notice anyone else. When the head dorm mistress was notified, she became scared that peradventure the missing girls were in the room. Against the advice of her colleagues; she decided to risk her life to enter the burning Elegance Hostel.
She tried to recollect all she had learnt about fire rescue. She soaked a towel in water, tied it round her mouth and nostrils and went towards the fire while the others held their breath, though most of the students were crying. She remembered reading somewhere that when you are in a burning room you try to stay flat on the floor, though she couldn’t recollect why. She went flat on her belly and snake-like, tried climbing the stairs but it wasn’t easy. When she was hit by the full force of the smoke that was trying desperately to escape, she almost ran out but then, the thought of facing the parents of the four kids urged her on.
She had not been gone long when men of fire service entered the school, and before long they moved everyone away while they did their work. After almost two hours of great battle, the fire was put out. They rescued six people altogether plus the head dorm-mistress from the furnace. The students were forced to go into the hall, so they wouldn’t behold the ugly spectacle. Tears rained from their teachers’ eyes when two of the girls were brought out dead, burnt so much that it was horrible to look at. However, the others were unconscious, and from the look, had very slim chances of survival.
Quickly, they were placed inside the ambulance and were rushed to the hospital. However, because it was a Saturday, the normal route that the ambulance should have taken to the hospital and gotten there in less than an hour took him over an hour. The ambulance had to detour more than once whenever he saw canopies on the government roads. Canopies placed there by people who were having parties that Saturday morning and had decided to block the road instead of renting a hall.
Who would willingly pay the exorbitant fees charged by event centre owners when you could pay chicken fees to greedy local government officials and make use of government road? Such money could even be used to buy more food and drinks for guests? Everyone else could go to hell.
Indeed, students of Ave Maria Intl College did go to hell, because by the time the ambulance could get to the hospital, two of the remaining victims were dead. One was the Head dorm-mistress and the other was Innocenta Remilekun, her mother’s only light in a cloudy sky.
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